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Chapter 3 - Ancient Greek Binding Spells and (Political) Violence

from Part II - Religious Violence in the Graeco-Roman World

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2020

Jitse H. F. Dijkstra
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa
Christian R. Raschle
Affiliation:
Université de Montréal
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Summary

As the anthropologist Michael Taussig argued, in discussion of Roger Casement’s Putumayo report, ‘To an important extent all societies live by fictions taken as reality’.1 His was a paper that explored ‘the mediation of the culture of terror through narration’,2 exploring specifically how everyday narratives of different kinds are woven together to create the mundane reality of violent ideologies. In this chapter, I will follow his lead by tracing the evidence for a culture of terror in ancient Greek, especially Athenian, society, as expressed in specific fragmentary narratives of magic and law, or, more specifically, of legal and magical violence. My argument will focus on the violence against the individual depicted in binding spells (or katadesmoi), examining the cultural significance of the spectacle of the body depicted in parts.3 I will be focusing, where possible, on spells found in Attica, using further material, including literary, archaeological and visual evidence, that sets it in its socio-political context.4

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Religious Violence in the Ancient World
From Classical Athens to Late Antiquity
, pp. 71 - 86
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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